Football: Princeton solves recent late-game problems
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Going into Saturday’s game against Yale, the football team had been riding a two-game losing streak that saw the Tigers' hopes for an Ivy League title go from very good to very unlikely. However, the Tigers were able to leave New Haven with a strong win under their belts by finding solutions to problems that had recently plagued them.
The biggest issues the Tigers had faced during their two-game losing streak were turnovers and their ability to finish games. In its loss to Cornell, Princeton led as late as the final minute, but it was unable to hold that lead. The Tigers also had four turnovers, two of which eventually resulted in scores for the Big Red, including the game-winning field goal.
Against Penn last week, Princeton led into the fourth quarter before allowing two touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with just under three minutes to go. The Tigers again committed four turnovers, including an early interception that led to a Penn score and a late pick that was returned for a game-tying touchdown. The two other turnovers came in opposing territory, including a game-ending fumble at the Penn 6-yard line as Princeton tried to tie the game.
Early on against Yale, it appeared that the Tigers' struggles would continue. After two interceptions in the second quarter by sophomore quarterbacks Connor Michelsen and Quinn Epperly, the Bulldogs reached the Princeton 5-yard line, in perfect position to break a 7-7 tie. But the next play completely changed the game.
That play was a 100-yard interception return by junior cornerback Trocon Davis, which gave the Tigers a lead that they would not lose. The interception was the result of a trick play in which running back Mordecai Cargill — who was filling in for Tyler Varga, sidelined by a knee contusion — got the ball and ran right before throwing a lofted pass back to Henry Furman, a wide receiver playing quarterback on Saturday.
While Furman may have been open for a second, the pass was a high and short one, allowing Davis — who had stuck to his assignment and not chased after the running play — to get his hands on the ball and run it back for a touchdown.
“I was basically a deep defender on the back side,” Davis said. “I saw the reverse go around and saw the quarterback come out, so when the ball was in the air, it was close enough, and I just made a play on it.”
The interception return gave the Tigers momentum, and they played much better from that point on, committing zero turnovers in the second half. However, despite that momentum and a halftime lead, Princeton still had to prove it could close out the game.
It looked good early on for the Tigers, as their defense was able to contain Yale's rushers much more effectively in the second half, allowing only 35 total rushing yards after having surrendered 129 in the first half. The exact opposite happened to the Tigers, who went from 52 rushing yards in the first half to recording 132 in the second. While many of these runs came late in the game, the Tigers clearly ran the ball more effectively later on, bruising the Bulldogs' tired defense even though Yale was expecting rushing plays by that point.
The Princeton offense also did its part to close out the game, scoring in its first possession of the second half and effectively taking time off the clock to take a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter. The lead forced Yale to play more aggressively, passing the ball more often even without a true quarterback on the field. The desperate Bulldogs struggled to move the ball, gaining only 33 yards in the fourth quarter.
Even while having productive games overall, the Tigers' offense scored only once total in the fourth quarter in losses to Cornell and Penn — committing a combined five turnovers — which put more pressure on the defense to make plays. By controlling the game against Yale, it allowed Princeton's defense to relax a little and look a lot more like the unit that dominated opponents earlier in the year.
The team’s ability to finish will be tested against Dartmouth next week, as the Big Green's defense has played better in the second half this year. The team will also have to continue to maintain possession in the run game, as the Big Green is tied for second in the league in forced fumbles.
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.